#19 An Empress and the Warriors
Hollywood just doesn’t give us epics very much any more. Thankfully, we have the Hong Kong movie industry to fill that void. God bless them, they understand how to make an epic. Over the top heroes, fancy costumes, and a metric buttload of guys with swords riding horses are the order of the day when making an epic, and our friends in the East have this firmly in hand. An Empress and the Warriors is an example of the lighter end of this trend.
For all it’s pomp and circumstance, the movie just comes across as somehow, for lack of a better description, slightly silly. I’m okay with that. The movie is your standard Hong Kong fare, set in a time of divided kingdoms who are at constant war with each other. The Emporer is killed in an underhanded way and the rightful heir to the throne is under massive pressure to prove their worth. In this case, it’s a girl, played by a famous Hong Kong pop star. She gets seperated from her army and befriends a nature loving doctor (with a secret) who heals her wounds and warms her heart, thinking her to be just some vagabond. When he finds out that she is, in fact, an empress, the whole dynamic changes.
For some inexplicable reason, halfway through the movie, for a brief moment, everyone starts–to sound… like…William Shatner. Then the story just starts getting silly and predictable–yet fun. The action sequences just get more and more ridiculous as the story progresses, including a scene where the heroine’s brother, played by a Lou Diamond Phillips look-alike, takes on an army of a thousand men single handedly, and in true epic story fashion he is practically an unstoppable, unkillable machine. Then there’s the hot air balloon. In feudal Japan. I’ll just have to let you watch that disaster unfold for yourself.
While the movie is great fun, a few things should be noted. Apparently, Hong Kong cinema is not encumbered by animal rights activists like American movies are. There are a number of cringe inducing scenes involving horses being tripped and dropped into pits. I really must say that those moments made me a little uneasy. I hadn’t realized how much we’ve been sheltered from that kind of imagery until I watched this movie.
Make no mistake, though I paint the film as funny and silly, it is meant to be a tragedy. In all fairness, the underlying story is a tragic one–it’s just that the presentation itself is ham-fisted, leading me to think that perhaps Hong Kong has an equivalent to Sam Raimi. So pop up a bowl of popcorn, lower the lights, and prepare for a little mindless fun with bad dubbing.